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fish quality

I have noticed something disturbing in the past several years about 
freshwater fish in pet shops and I thought I'd see if it is just a local 
phenomenon or if it applies every where. What I have noticed is that fish 
quality and selection has dropped off to the point that the freshwater 
hobbyist has little or no choice in the fish they keep. This decline seems to 
be connected with chain store petshops crowding out Mom and Pop type shops. 
Available fish varieties are at an all time low, even fish that were once 
considered main stays of the trade are difficult to find. On top of that 
problem is the over all poor quality of the fish available. Poor health and 
very poor specimen quality is the norm. Some fish are so far from the color 
and vigor of past fish it is sometimes difficult to be sure of the species 
without a very close look. While I do keep numerous North American native 
fish I also enjoy tropicals but the choices offered by petshops I have looked 
through keep me from buying many tropicals. I can remember dozens of 
different species of live bearers with wonderful color and vigor. Now you are 
lucky to see two or three species and they are so inbreed and colorless it's 
difficult to use them for anything but live food. Matter of fact I used to 
see fish for sale as live food that far surpassed what is now being sold as 
top quality fish. Egg layers are in no better shape, wild caught often look 
reasonably good but the selection is very poor. Captive breed egg layers are 
in no better shape than live bearers. The only exception is specialty fish 
like angels, discus, and a few other large fish. In my town I haven't seen 
Cardinal tetra's in at least three years I have seen them in bigger cities 
with Mom and pop type stores. But local chain stores say they are too hard to 
keep even though at one time petshops in my area were filled with Cardinals. 
Of course chain stores seldom reach the proficiency of a private petshop in 
caring for their fish so maybe the problem is connected with the loss of 
experience that comes when chain stores drive out shops with owners that 
actually know how to take care of fish. I have heard that much of the problem 
has to do with breeders and wholesalers who don't care about the quality of 
the fish they sell or produce. I know that when I was (a little ;-) younger I 
worked in a pet shop for several years and the owner would have refused to do 
business with anyone who would have sent him fish like the ones being offered 
for sale now. What I do think is that we as paying customers have the right 
to expect quality fish and should be observant enough and vocal enough to 
express this to your local pet shop. Maybe then we can go back to cherry 
barbs that actually look like cherry barbs, platys that don't look like culls 
from a breeders pond, and mollies that have that robust glow of health that 
wild mollies have in spades. It's really sad and we as customers are at least 
partially to blame for buying substandard fish but fish shops are to blame as 
well. If you run a chain store you should at least know what ideal specimens 
look like and demand your fish at least resemble them. If it's because chain 
stores simply buy with nothing but price in mind then they need to have the 
error of there ways communicated to them by us the customers and by the 
owners/operators of these stores. If something doesn't change then the 
freshwater hobby is in deep trouble and sick, deformed, and disposable fish 
will become the standard and the hobby will die.